We wanted to share this interesting editorial piece that appeared in the Anniston Star on Wednesday, December 8, 2010 about Rick Bragg. He was addressing the legislature yesterday and challenging them to do what is right for the needy in the state.
On the chamber floors of the Alabama Legislature are the discarded pleas of those who advocate for the state’s low-income residents.
Those wasted efforts are piled atop one another, tossed like refuse in the corner, as lawmakers often ignore appeals to change how the state assists its working poor.
Editorial boards have pleaded with legislators to lead by action, not inaction.
Ministers have preached to them. Activists have implored them. Even the working poor have stated their case.
Perhaps lawmakers will listen to Rick Bragg.
Monday, the Pulitzer Prize winning Bragg used his appearance as the keynote speaker at the incoming Legislature’s orientation session in Tuscaloosa to wag his finger at the state’s first Republican-controlled governing body since Reconstruction.
He did it in typical Bragg style: He talked of his poor beginnings in Calhoun County, where he worked for The Star. He discussed his mother’s struggles of raising young children while living in an abusive marriage. And he talked of far-away reporting assignments while working for The New York Times.
Yet, his message didn’t stray far from its central point.
“I am not asking you to give my people, working people, anything they don’t earn,” The Tuscaloosa News said he told legislators. “But I believe that every society, every great society, really is judged by how it treats its working people and poor.”
And Alabama, as we know, doesn’t treat its working poor well.
The examples are plentiful, and the frustration is great. The worst demon may be the upsidedown system of taxation, in which the state’s income-tax deductions are too friendly to the well-to-do. It’s reprehensible that Alabama asks those with the least to pay a greater percentage of their earnings than it does those with the most.
Alabama remains one of only two states that fully taxes the sale of groceries. That doesn’t affect the rich’s checkbook. But go ask a single mom with a meager paycheck if that 4 percent grocery tax makes a difference for her.
And at the heart of countless Alabama ailments are the state budgets and state Constitution, an evil document whose imprint can be found on many facets of the working poor’s plight.
State budgets that are better funded and properly managed help the rich and the poor. A constitution that allows lawmakers to more easily enact laws that assist Alabamians would be a godsend.
Put simply, Alabama makes it unduly hard for the working poor.
We can only imagine what was going through the minds of Alabama legislators Monday when Bragg stood before them and beseeched their assistance. “If you leave office and you have forgotten these people … you all have failed,” he told them. Alabama’s new batch of legislators could make this state better for those who reside in it. Bragg, like others before him, has shown the way. We’ll see if they ignore his pleas, as well.